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Gym Rat? Physical Activity Helps You Think

Irene Tussy

When is the last time you went to the gym or engaged in any physical activity? Some of us are total gym rats, but others of us don’t even remember the last time we saw a treadmill. We are all taught from a young age that exercising is of the utmost importance in maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle. It’s time we look past the physical payoff and focus on how physical activity (PA) can impact our mental well-being!

A new study co-authored by Talia Robinson, Kharine Jean, and Stephen Miller from the University of Georgia’s Department of Psychology, highlighted the fact that physical activity aids in protecting your cognitive abilities as you age and keeps your brain healthy. Our brains are made up of groups of individual networks that communicate information to one another. Different parts of the brain are active at varying times. For instance, “The network that is active when the body is at rest… flips off when a person starts trying to complete a task. At that time, another network kicks on.” All of these networks play crucial roles in our daily lives, but as people age, tasks become arduous.

The UGA study analyzed the impact of PA on the “association between executive function and the strength of anti-correlated brain networks in community-dwelling older adults.” In order to successfully conduct their study, the researchers selected participants that were at least 51 years old who underwent “neuropsychological testing, physical activity and fitness measurements, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).”

To produce their results, the researchers took into account the number of steps, intensity, and distance traveled during participants’ PA. The authors concluded that increased levels of physical activity do in fact advocate “protective factors for the aging brain.”

What does this mean for us now? First, you should offer this advice to your parents or grandparents. But for you personally, it’s time to start building the habit of physical activity. Whether it’s getting a gym membership or enrolling in a yoga class, cultivating this habit now will allow you to maintain it later in life. In doing so, not only will you look good and feel good, but you’ll be protecting your cognitive abilities too!

-Irene Tussy, Writer

Sources: Science Daily and Research Gate

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